Unravelling links between gender and adoption of agricultural innovations: Insights from communities in Malawi
The successful scaling of agronomic practices and technologies demands that scientists and development partners consider gender issues at the household and community level (and beyond). Important questions are: how do male and female farmers evaluate new agricultural practices? How do they differ in their preferences for adoption? How do they perceive various extension approaches?
A team of social scientists explored the above questions with smallholder farmers in Africa RISING intervention communities in central Malawi. Focus group discussions were held with 148 male and female farmers in Dedza and Ntcheu districts and complemented by key informant interviews.
Select findings from the study are as follows:
- As to how male and female farmers evaluate new agricultural practices, results from this qualitative study showed that female farmers tended to evaluate technologies in terms of household food security, while male farmers more often opted for technologies/varieties that are demanded by the market.
- With regards to preferences for adoption of specific technologies promoted by the project, both female and male farmers mentioned a preference for adopting the following practices and technologies: intercropping, doubled-up legumes, maize fertilized with NPK and urea using the Sasakawa method (i.e. planting one plant per station spaced 25 cm apart) and the use of Gliricidia and Faidherbia albida as supplementary feed to livestock. However, men and women differed in their choice of crop combinations for intercropping and doubled-up legumes.
- Most study participants, particularly females, appreciated the mother and baby trial extension approach of Africa RISING as opposed to the government extension demonstrations. The former allows farmers to learn and practice on the mother plot and implement the technology in their own fields within the same season.
The findings of this study make a strong case for the need for projects implementing research and development activities to gain in-depth understanding of gender dynamics and relations at household and community levels as a starting point for ensuring effective uptake of technologies. In the Africa RISING context, these results will be essential in informing research and discussions in the program’s second phase.
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